Thursday, 1 December 2011

Herefordshire - Inching ever closer

Apologies for the delay!
15th May, Falfield – Cravern Arms, 119km

After my ritual porridge and coffee I pack up the gear. I do it with a little more care than I might usually. Increasingly aware that the end is nigh, I attempt to savour the details of my habits. Everything is folded in the same manner each time. And everything has it's place in my bags – it never does pack down as well if something is out of place. It took only a few of the three hundred and seventeen days for me to realise that there's a certain comfort that comes with the routine I have adopted. That's one aspect of travel people tend to overlook. It's easy to get blinded by ideas of careless freedom and exploration. But like it or not we are creatures of routine. We only need observe the cycle of the sun to remember this – it's the only reference point we need. It's one of many reasons I expect polar travel would throw up a whole new level of challenges.

I speak to my girlfriend on the phone and we make plans to spend the final night of my journey together in Shrewsbury. I plan to ride most of the way today and have an easy morning tomorrow. The short sharp hills of Hereford ensure my lungs get periodic workouts throughout the day. They are not the kind of climbs that have me spitting and swearing – but enough to keep boredom at bay.

Having spent a few years screaming around this part of the world on a motorcycle I begin to recognise many of the towns I pass through. And, though it may make me unpopular with my biker-buddies, I'd say it's more enjoyable at the speed of the ambling cyclist. I follow river valleys and pick my way North through the county.

A gentle, yet penetrating, rain begins to fall. I take refuge under a broad leaf Oak in a layby. Lunchtime. I pop a tin of tuna while my side order of porridge comes upto heat. It's been a quiet morning – no verbal exchanges, and I opted for no music. There are times when the silence helps my absorb my surroundings. I pluck bunches of long grass to clean up my pans. Pack the bike. Wrestle with the clammy waterproofs. Turn the pedals.

By early evening I cross into Shropshire and reach the market town of Ludlow. I take a short break from the riding to walk through the town and admire the castle. Then, conscious that the day is disappearing, I roll on out of town. Following the river Corve I scan the road sides for a picturesque camping spot – this being the last night I shall spend in my tent. The soft evening light is oppressed by the persistent mizzle – I realise that “scenic” might be asking a bit much form tonight. Through a field entrance I spot a sheltered copse. I put up the tent and eat outside (despite the rain). Given tomorrows luxurious accommodation, tonight feels like my last night on the road – and it wouldn't do to let the rain sour my mood.


Here's a wee video I shot on my iphone

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